Commentary: Alternative Education a Way to Stem School-to-Prison Pipeline

Judy Hartnett's picture
Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The apocalyptic state of public education is shoving our high school dropouts onto a pathway to the penitentiary. The latest proof comes in recent reports about how Highland Park may resort to a charter system to keep its doors open in September.

Not a single article or report that I've seen on the subject has mentioned the fate of programs for high school dropouts. To me, that means we as a society have become so desperate to salvage our public schools from financial collapse that we have calculated our most vulnerable students right out of the equation. This equates to adding them to crime statistics and prison rolls.

It is with outrage and urgency that I plead with lawmakers and educational leaders: Please include alternative education programs to rescue dropouts as you strategize ways to keep our schools open. Your investment will spare these young people from a lifetime of poverty and imprisonment that would ultimately cost America millions of dollars.

My urgent plea comes at a time when things have never been worse, and I speak from 40 years of experience as pastor of historic Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, just north of Highland Park. I also founded the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences, a charter school.

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